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Underdevelopment, Poverty and H1N1 Flu Virus
[Interview] Dr Francisco Hideo Aoki, infectious disease specialist, talks about Brazil's situation
Antonio Carlos Rix (carlosrix)     Print Article 
Published 2009-05-09 11:05 (KST)   
This article is only lightly edited.

Update: Today (May 9), in Rio de Janeiro, two Brazilians infected by the H1N1 virus were hospitalized and under observation at the Clementino Fraga Filho University Hospital. They must stay isolated in hospital for 10 days - time for the complete life cycle of the virus. They are actually now on the sixth day of that period and are recovering well. Until yesterday there were 18 cases under observation, 30 suspected cases and 113 confirmed clear. Still the government says there is no reason for panic. Authorities are stepping up their handling of flights coming from the US, Canada and Mexico.
  <Editor's Note>
Beyonce in Europe. What was just announced about Beyonce's tour in Europe gives us the exact measure of what is at stake when we talk about the H1N1 influenza virus. At VOA you can read: "Beyonce kicked off a 33-date European tour on April 26 in Zagreb, Croatia. Shows were also scheduled in Austria, Hungary, the Czech Republic, the Netherlands, France, Belgium, Germany, Denmark, Sweden, Switzerland, Portugal, Spain, the United Kingdom and Ireland. After wrapping up the tour on June 9, she'll return to the US."

What if one person among her crew would be infected with the H1N1 influenza virus in the early stages of the disease? In about 30 days or so they will be all in 15 different places. The globalized world is again facing the problems progress and our economic dynamics brings with them. In another example of what happens today, I spoke with Mr. Jefferson Marangoni. He is a software consultant who lives in Campinas, he told me he had been to 10 of the most important cities in Brazil in less than two weeks this month.

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In Brazil the first suspect cases have already been detected, without confirmation or casualties up until now. "The government has been too slow" affirm the mainstream media. Government personal replay the Mexicans delayed the proper notification. In fact the World Health Organization has issued warnings much before the Mexican Government did anything at all.

Right now everyone arriving from Mexico, the US and Canada in Brazil's international airports and ports have been subject to a special reception. Addresses are checked, temperatures are measured and so on. If necessary the person will be taken to centers of medical reference for proper care and accompaniment. Everything to try to avoid what is already happening -- global contamination.

We know from the news worldwide that the only real solution is international scientific cooperation and the production of a vaccine. But to face the real problem we have to act globally to put an end to poverty, to the lack of proper sanitation, housing and education. Now we will have to face this virus, sure, but there is much more to be done if we are to enjoy our lives really.

In Brazil (and this is happening in many other countries, too) many people seek security beyond the high walls of closed condominiums where they can live safely and happy. For me it says: "I don't care if the world outside falls apart, I am safe here." Are they? Are we?

In a much larger scale the US, for example, has a wall on its border with Mexico what is that? It is the same thing as the condominium! The same message. The truth is we can't turn our faces and pretend the poor and the deprived people of the world are not there. If we fail to respond properly it is going to cost us dearly -- our very lives.

Case zero, we all saw it on TV. I saw it on BBC two days before they aired it in Brazil. The young boy. Who is he? He is a person that lives near pig farms in a village with little sanitary conditions. He belongs to a poor family with limited education. No walls or borders were able to contain the virus. Sanitation, education and sustainable growth may.

I interviewed Dr Francisco Hideo Aoki, an infectious disease specialist from Faculty of Medical Science, State University of Campinas, Brazil about this and about the situation in Brazil.

Please, Doctor Aoki could you tell me what your specialty is, what do you do and where you work and study?

Dr. Aoki: "Let's be calm and follow the health guidelines of public health services."
©2009 Public Relations and Press of Hospital Clinicas
Doctor Aoki: I am an specialist in infectious diseases and I'm a medical doctor, professor, PhD, and coordinator of the Discipline of Infectious Diseases working at the Faculty of Medical Science, State University of Campinas, 90 km north from Sao Paulo city, Brazil.

How much would you say you agree with the previous exposition?

In my opinion before starting this possible Influenza A H1N1 pandemic, a different form of viral genetic mutations of the A H1N1, we must initially consider some things. Using your own words " to face the real problem we have to act globally to put an end to poverty, to the lack of proper sanitation, housing and education". This statment reflect the pure reality and truth. Of course without these attitudes it is almost impossible to face any battle related to health - the A H1N1 is an example. There are plans to avoid this disease, governments in general have contingency plans to cope with epidemic diseases, with technically competent plans, but nobody is free of being contaminated, considering possible accesses to the epidemic areas or contact with persons that come from these areas. Fortunately, the A H1N1 virus seems not to be producing a serious disease.

I read on the Web recently that just by increasing the number of times you wash your hands per day you may lower substantially the possibilities of acquiring any sort of influenza, including the new one. Is this true?

Yes, it's true because these viruses are transmitted by air, droplets of respiratory secretions. So washing hands makes it possible to avoid contamination and also avoiding kissing and direct body contacts like effusive hugs.

The Brazilian government affirmed again on radio news that there are no confirmed cases in Brazil. With so many people coming and going between US and Brazil, do you think it is possible to believe this?

The Brazilian Ministry of Health announced today (May 8, 2009), that four cases were diagnosed, but everybody is very well. All cases are related to people that went to the epidemic areas. There are no people liked to these families or contacts of theirs that were infected until now. They were properly isolated just to avoid the spread of the virus.

Do you think Brazil could be out of reach for this virus or that Brazilians may be more resistant to it because of the many kinds of influenza we already have here?

Anyone can be affected, even Brazilian people. Even having had yearly seasonal influenza A cases. This fact of seasonal influenza cases existence in Brazil does not protect us more or less - no previous infection can protect us against this new mutant virus.

How worried do you think the Brazilians should be about this new virus?

Everyone has to remain calm - avoid panic. This is the key word now. We must follow health public health services guidelines. That is what is totally correct.

Would you say it is safe to travel to Brazil right now?

Yes, totally in terms of this H1N1 viruses.

Is Brazil helping develop a vaccine for the Swine Influenza?

Yes, the State of Sao Paulo Institute Butantan is in preparing to develop a H1N1 flu vaccine, they expect to have it ready in six months.

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©2009 OhmyNews
Other articles by reporter Antonio Carlos Rix

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